How to Customize an Ikea Alex (or Any Other Furniture!)

Introduction: How to Customize an Ikea Alex (or Any Other Furniture!)

I am in love with design of the Ikea Alex.  It is the perfect piece of furniture to organize all of your tools.  When I purchased my Ikea Alex in 2009, it only came in white.  Imagine my chagrin when I just discovered today that in now comes in black!  Alas, I decided to create this Instructable anyway because this method can be used with a multitude of colors (like with the blue and green I am thinking of doing next for a bookshelf in my classroom...)

This project details how to change the color of a piece of furniture (in this case, an ikea alex) using plastic spray paint and how to reface drawer fronts using scrap-booking paper. 

This project can easily be modified and applied to different types of furniture.  In my case, I just resurfaced the drawer fronts with scrapbooking paper, but you can resurface the top, a side, or even the entire surface of a piece if you wished.

I originally showcased this project on my blog.

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Step 1: Gather Your Supplies

• Ikea Alex (≈$130* ) or other furniture item of your choosing
• 2 Containers of Plaid Mod Podge Hard Coat 8 oz (≈$6 each, $12 total)
• 3 Cans of Krylon Fusion for Plastic in Color of Your Choice - I used Black Satin (≈$5 each, $15 total)
• Dropcloth (≈$1)
• Drawer Liner (≈$10)
• Scrapbooking Paper of Your Choosing (≈$3)

Total Cost Not Including Furniture ≈$41
Total Cost With Ikea Furniture ≈$171

• Scissors
• Paintbrushes
• Razorblade Cutter
• Cutting Mat (Can be as simple as a piece of cardboard!)
• Old giftcard, store discount card, or something similar

Step 2: Commence With the Color Change

The first step for this project is the color transformation. I used Krylon Fusion (a spray paint for plastic) because the container specified it could be used on “wood, metal, wicker, wrought iron, plastic, hard vinyl, glass, plaster, ceramic, paper, and paper mache”. I figured with this laundry list it would have the adhesive property to cover anything. The Ikea Alex is a combination of particleboard, melamine, foil, and acrylic – so I wanted to make sure the paint I chose would stick.

The benefit of changing the color of an Ikea Alex is it comes disassembled – which makes it easier to reach all the areas needing painting. If an area wouldn’t be seen after assembly, I didn’t worry about painting it.

I don’t have a yard, so I spray painted on my back porch. Be sure to use a drop cloth! In the end, I wound up using plastic garbage bags cut into sheets because I ran out of the cheap plastic drop “cloth” I bought at my local dollar store. It worked just as well!

WARNING!  If you have excess paint on your drop cloth it will rub off onto your piece. This is just common sense, but I did this accidentally more than once.

Also, be sure to spray paint in a well ventilated area.

Step 3: Allow to Dry

Do you read all the instructions first? I didn’t and I learned the hard way that the spray paint I used takes 7 days to fully “cure”.  To be honest – I only waited about a day and a half before I assembled my Ikea Alex together. In the meantime, the pieces sat in my half bathroom. Have a place in mind to let your furniture fully before you paint. Oh how I wish I had a garage!

In the beginning I was wary about using spray paint, but I found the coverage to be very even and quick to apply.  The pieces dried to the touch in only 15 minutes - even in the hot sticky summer heat.

I only had two issues with the spray paint.  One, it can chip before it fully hardens. Two, it takes a week to fully harden (this goes back to reading the instructions first!).

Step 4: Customize Drawer Fronts: Part 1

For these next few steps you will need all of the tools outlined in the materials step (scissors to cut scrapbooking paper, paintbrushes to apply mod podge, razorblade cutter for precise cuts, plastic card, and a cutting mat).

1. Cut paper roughly to size. It is easier to have extras hanging off almost all of the edges to cut off later.
2. Apply a very thin coat to the back of the paper using a brush.
3. Using a plastic card, push all the air bubbles out from under the paper. It is important to do this process immediately, or the paint will start to dry and the bubbles will be impossible to remove.
4. Repeat steps 1-3 for all the drawer fronts.
5. Cut off the extra paper from all the drawer fronts using a razor blade knife or something similar.

Step 5: Customize Drawer Fronts: Part 2

Coat the top of the scrapbooking paper SEVERAL times with the hard coat mod podge.  The more coats you do, the more durable your drawer fronts will turn out.  Because this is going to be for tools, I made sure to really coat the edges well.

I got a little mod podge crazy and actually mod podged the whole outside of my ikea alex.  This was probably overboard, but I was paranoid that the paint would chip.  It did in one little place and I didn't know where it came from, so I went to town.  I mod podged 5 coats on my project.

Once again, allow to dry!  I let the mod podge dry for only about 10 hours, but it is recommended to give it at least 24 hours.

Step 6: Assemble Your Furniture

If you used disassembled furniture like I did, now is the time to assemble it!  It was exciting to watch the look come together. 

Step 7: Add in Drawer Liners

Because this Ikea Alex was destined to be a tool organizer, liners were put in each drawer to minimize slippage.  I used the scissors to cut each piece perfectly to size.

Step 8: Organize Your Tools

The non slip drawer liners created the perfect environment to keep all my tools in place. Well, maybe not quite "my" because they are mostly my husbands tools originally, but he shares :0) - and I use them just as much as him.

Step 9: Enjoy Your Custom Furniture

This Ikea Alex now fits perfectly into the decor of my home office. 

Please feel free to adapt these steps to suit your needs.  I am excited to see what kind of furniture redecoration you do using this process, so send me your pictures!

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    9 Discussions


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Nice project.. Have you or anyone else here tried using those oak veneers that have the glue on the back and you use an iron to attach them? I have a melamine vanity that is in dire need of a facelift (it can't be disassembled or it would be an "ex-vanity")

    Thanks again.


    7 years ago on Step 9

    wow, thank you for posting this! I have an old standing jewelry box I want to paint and give an old victorian feel for my mom on mother's day. I haven't a clue how to go about doing this. The inside of the box is pink felt, and I adore it. The outside needs help. So I need all the tips I can get. Your project looks beautiful! job well done. I didn't know you could spray paint wicker. Awesome


    8 years ago on Introduction

    FANTASTIC idea!! My mother is moving into her first place living on her own and I am so excited to decorate it with her! This is going to come in extremely handy on any furniture I make! I will be able to give it a custom look for the right price!! Thanks for sharing!


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    You can even use this idea on furniture that is pre-made. I think it is awesome you make your own furniture!



    8 years ago on Introduction

    My sincerest apologies, I don't know why I was negative. In fact I love this work it reminds me of the old designs of William Morris. Well done.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Apology accepted :0) - William Morris has very intricate work so I thank you for the compliment. Honestly, all I did for this project was mod podge scrapbook paper to the front of furniture fronts. The ikea alex comes already cut out and ready to put together so it is not like I made the furniture from scratch. The project really isn't as hard as it looks. You can put scrapbook paper on the front of furniture that is already put together so it is a versatile idea. Happy crafting!



    I thought this was a wonderful project, in how to decorate a piece of furniture, not "make" a piece of furniture. Thank you so much for posting this Instructable and I can't wait to do it to my own furniture pieces! Well done, Jessica!